Statement: “Last time gas prices went way up, our ridership skyrocketed. It went up like 10 percent year-over-year for about seven straight months,” Metropolitan Transit System spokesman Rob Schupp told Fox 5 for this March 3 story about rising gas prices.

Determination: Mostly True

Analysis: The average gallon of gas in San Diego last month cost $3.83, the highest rate since August 2008, according to Prices have continued to rise — $3.96 per gallon as of Friday — and at least one survey shows that San Diegans are paying more than others in the Lower 48. Yikes!

The spike has renewed attention for mass transit, and last week, Fox 5 highlighted some of the residents who already use it to save on gas. Schupp, a spokesman for the agency that operates San Diego’s buses and trolleys, told Fox 5 he expected ridership to grow if prices continued to climb. After all, it’s happened before.

“Last time gas prices went way up, our ridership skyrocketed,” he told Fox 5. “It went up like 10 percent year-over-year for about seven straight months.”

The last major spike in gas prices extended from March to September 2008. And ridership leaped to its highest point in at least the last four years.

It didn’t perfectly measure up to Schupp’s description, though. Ridership didn’t always increase quite as much as he said.

In five of seven consecutive months, ridership came near or exceeded a 10 percent increase from the previous year — as Schupp said. But in two of those months, the increase wasn’t so high, falling below 5 percent. The graphic below compares gas prices and ridership, and highlights the period that Schupp referenced in his statement. When gas prices fell from their peak, so did transit ridership.

Our definition for Mostly True says the statement must be accurate and contain an important nuance. In this case, Schupp’s broader assertion was accurate — ridership followed the last spike in gas prices — but his description of the year-over-year gains didn’t exactly hit the mark for each month.

Still, five out of seven months is pretty close. Ridership as a whole over the period came within the ballpark of a 10 percent increase, jumping 8.9 percent.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

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